Photo by Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
By Jacob Kornbluh
NEW YORK – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday signed an executive order that orders state agencies to divest themselves of companies and organizations who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the state of Israel.
“In New York, we lead by example. We are also a place of action. We want to take immediate action because we want Israel to know that we are on their side,” Cuomo said during a speech, attended by Jewish leaders, at The Harvard Club. “If you boycott against Israel, New York will boycott you.”
The executive order – the first such signed by a governor – will command the commissioner of the Office of General Services to compile a list over the next six months of businesses and groups engaged in “boycott, divestment or sanctions activity targeting Israel, either directly or through a parent or subsidiary.”
Once the process is completed, all executive-branch agencies and departments will be required to divest themselves of any company on the list to be made public, according to the draft first published by The New York Times. “The State of New York will not permit its own investment activity to further the BDS campaign in any way, shape or form, whether directly or indirectly,” the order states.
“New York stands in solidarity with Israel today and always. This state will not stand for the politics of discrimination in any form, and we will continue to demonstrate our unwavering support for the people of Israel in the fight for freedom, liberty and democracy,” said Cuomo. “I’m proud to sign this nation’s leading executive order, which will help protect Israel from the threat of divestment.”
Cuomo called on governors from all states to follow his lead and take immediate action to fight the BDS movement. According to the governor’s office, Cuomo has been named as the Co-Chair of the American Jewish Committee’s Governors against BDS initiative. “This order sends the message that this state will do everything in its power to end this hateful, intolerant campaign. New York and Israel share an unbreakable bond and I pray that the Israeli and Palestinian people will find a way to live side by side and find peace, prosperity and security,” he said.
Following his speech, Cuomo marched in the Celebrate Israel parade on fifth avenue, alongside a truck blaring Israeli music. “I am the first governor in the country to sign an executive order saying we oppose the boycott of Israel. I am proud of it and I hope other states follow our lead,” Cuomo told reporters before marching. “It is very important that Israel is strong, not just for the sake of Israel but for the sake of all democracies. Israel is an important strategic ally of the U.S. And we have to keep that relationship strong. And even in this difficult time of turmoil, I want Israel to know New York stands with them.”
Asked if he has responded to President Obama’s April letter requesting to lift state sanctions against Iran as part of the Iran nuclear deal, Cuomo said: “I would have to check. I don’t know if we have.”
Last month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott informed the Obama administration that the state of Texas would reject the administration’s request, sent to all states on April 8, 2016, to “review” its economic sanctions against Iran in order to abide by the terms of the international accord. He also urged other states to follow his lead and reject the administration’s request to lift state sanctions on Iran in a letter sent to 49 governors on May 31.
Senator Chuck Schumer on Sunday said he would seek to introduce the same idea to fight BDS on a federal level. “I think what the governor has done is an excellent idea,” Schumer told reporters. “I think that the state (of New York) should not do any business with any company that participates in BDS, and I am looking at introducing a federal law to do the same thing. BDS is a movement that is just totally unfair to Israel. They hold Israel to one standard and hold the other countries, including those who are sworn enemies to Israel, to another standard.”